Experience unique vibe of the Music Library in Old Cabell Hall!

By Mitch Farish | September 23, 2021

Guest post by UVA Librarian for Music & the Performing Arts Amy Hunsaker

The Music Library has been described as a fishbowl, with its Byzantine-inspired blue carpet squares and arched ceilings. It is very quiet there, except for music that occasionally wafts through from a rehearsal or music lecture. Quirky, hidden study spaces are tucked behind walls of books. It is perhaps the most unique library on Grounds and is worth a visit — if you can find it.

Armchairs around a small round table against a background of columns and curved walls containing shelved filled with books..
The main floor of the Music Library. The space was once a snack bar named the Cave in reference to its grotto-like appearance.

Located in the basement of Old Cabell Hall (look for the signs in the stairwell from the central lobby), the Music Library was carved out of a space that was never meant to be visited by the public. The area originally hosted a coal furnace rather than people, so the bricks in the vaulted ceiling remain bare in contrast to other nicely finished interior domes on Grounds. The ceiling has been painted white, but visitors can clearly see the perfectly stacked bricks, designed to be fireproof and last forever. The lower floor stacks area is mostly round, but the shelving is rectangular, creating curious nooks and crannies.

The Music Library currently provides access to more than 150,000 books, study scores, critical editions, and sound recordings. One of our primary services to the University is providing music scores, or sheet music. Any student, regardless of their major, can check out music written for piano, guitar, trumpet, marimba, etc. for practice or performance.

We have thousands of scores, including Broadway folios, operas, modern classical music, folk music, symphonies, chamber music, rock music, and more. If there is music you need or want and we don’t have it, we will either order a copy for the Music Library or help you borrow it from another library. We also provide access to streaming music and videos through Virgo, and there are thousands of CDs and LPs that you can check out. We sometimes host concerts and meetings, and everyone is welcome to come and study. To explore our music resources in more detail, visit the Music Subject Guide. For more information, you can Ask a librarian or phone us at (434) 924-7041.

The Music Library houses an impressive number of music resources shoehorned into a very old, unusual space. It has a unique vibe; come and see if it’s your vibe!